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March 15, 2013

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Bigger penalties likely under new environmental sentencing proposals

New proposals aimed at bringing greater consistency to how the courts in England and Wales deal with environmental crimes have been issued by the Sentencing Council.

The draft sentencing guidelines, which could result in larger fines for serious offenders, aim to provide clear guidance on sentencing environmental offences, and ensure that the penalties handed down to offenders match the seriousness of the breach and provide a strong deterrent.

The Sentencing Council is proposing that magistrates make greater use of the highest levels of fines available to them, which would likely increase fines for those that cause the most damage, or risk to health.

For less serious offences, it is not expected that fines will rise from current levels, and the overall proportions of offenders receiving the various types of sentence, such as fines, community sentences, discharges and imprisonment, are unlikely to change.

The draft guidelines cover a wide variety of offences relating to the disposal of waste and rubbish, mostly covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

They include fly-tipping and offences whereby a company or individuals have not handled, or disposed of waste properly. Other areas covered include nuisance offenders who cause noise, smoke, dust or smells, or who run premises that pose a health, or pollution risk.

Sentencing Council member and magistrate Katharine Rainsford said: “Offences like fly-tipping and illegal disposal of hazardous waste can cause significant damage to the environment and put people’s health at risk.

“We’re improving guidance for courts to help ensure consistent and appropriate sentences for offenders, particularly for corporate offenders, who can be guilty of the worst offences. These offences are normally motivated by making, or saving money at the expense of the taxpayer. Our proposals aim to ensure that sentences hit offenders in their pocket.”

The Sentencing Council is seeking views from the public, those working in the criminal justice system, and environmental professionals.

The consultation, which runs until 6 June, can be found at

Responses can be made online at and via e-mail to [email protected]

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